To mark 40 years of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, Trócaire are running a campaign, calling on the Israeli government to fully implement the recommendations of the International Court of Justice regarding the wall Israel has built annexing Palestinian land.
In yesterday’s UK Independent, Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev is quoted as saying:
“We do not accept that the West Bank is occupied in the classic sense.”
What makes for a ‘classic’ occupation is far from clear. One wonders if ‘classic’ features can be discerned in the continued confiscation of Palestinian lands, the continued expansion of Israeli settlements and the settler population, the house demolitions, the administrative detentions, the extra-judicial assassinations, and of course, the monstruous separation wall annexing Palestinian land.
Perhaps Israel’s occupation is not a ‘classic’ occupation because the purpose of its occupation is not to exploit the population, but to dispossess it, thus making possible further Jewish settlement.
Today’s Ha’aretz editorial offers a pretty conventional view of matters from the Israeli point of view:
Over the past decade, Israel has elected governments that have expressed the desire of a majority of Israelis for a bilateral solution of two states for two peoples and a withdrawal from most of the settlements. The withdrawal from Gaza was to have been the first stage. The victory of Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, cut off the process.
This is plainly false, since the expression of a ‘desire’ for ‘a withdrawal from most of the settlements’ would not manifest itself in continued settlement expansion. B’Tselem figures show that the West Bank settler population (excluding East Jerusalem) rose by 63% between end 1997 and end 2005.
No reasonable person would deny the right of Israeli citizens to security, nor for that matter the duty of the state to protect its citizens. But if the primary concern of the wall is security, why does it annex Palestinian land? And what security is to be found in illegal settlements on other people’s land?
Trócaire are right to be running this campaign, since the Palestinians continue to suffer terribly because of the occupation. However, I am wary of the use of the word ‘peace’. Everyone says they want peace. War criminals get described as men of peace. During the ‘peace process’, Israel continued to expand its settlements in the West Bank, with the support of the United States, whilst complaining that it had ‘no partner for peace’.
That doesn’t mean that there can be no peace. But real peace will not arrive unless there is justice, and that means, for starters, ending the occupation, disbanding the settlements, and bringing down the wall.
You can sign Trócaire’s petition here.